1996 Circuit Retro

Robert Holmes and Malcolm Thompson were eighth overall in their 1300GT

Byrne and Phelan win in Kenmare

This report is reproduced from Carsport, photos by Esler Crawford.

EAMONN Byrne and Paul Phelan in a Cooper S won this year’s Circuit of Ireland Retrospective Rally, although their winning margin of almost 40 penalties did not reflect the many changes on the leader board over the three days of the rally.

This A35 was piloted by Mark Brian and Michael Kearney.

This year’s route started in Newcastle, County Down from which three tests were completed before leaving Northern Ireland. A short supper halt preceded the traditionally testing night navigation section in counties Louth, Meath and Westmeath leading to the overnight halt. The event re-started on Saturday from Locke’s Distillery in Kilbeggan, before heading south to Kenmare via two regularities and a series of driving tests.

A loop on Sunday starting and finishing in Kenmare, taking in such classics as Ballaghbeama and the Connor Pass led the crews to the finish.

John Keatley from Magherafelt in his Cooper S.

It was former winners who led at the overnight halt, Hill Scott and Isaac Busby, but their lead was a slender one with Peter Lynch/Rory Dooley in their Mark 1 Cortina and the Midget of Douglas Richardson/Sam Meyer within 0.7 penalties of the lead. Only two crews cleaned the navigation, Ian and Ross McCulloch and Barry Tobin/Paddy McDonnell.

Conor Falvey and Vincent Fagan get a little assurance form the spectators.

On Saturday the weather took a turn for the worse with heavy rain and flooding dominating the day. It was the Beetle of Robert Woodside and Colin Francis who mastered conditions to lead on Saturday including cleaning the “Mullaghanish” regularity despite the worst flooding of the day on this section.

Paddy O’Callaghan and James O’Brien with their VW Beetle.

The introduction of pre-plotted regularities in addition to those using tulip diagrams by new Clerk of the Course, Roger Corbett, made sure that the regularities were much more testing, and so more important to the results. Douglas Richardson and Sam Meyer moved into second place as overnight leaders Scott and Busby fell back to sixth. Car trouble for Lynch and Dooley dropped them to eighth removing the chance of a much sought-afier win for another year.

Eamonn Byrne and Paul Phelan started the Sunday route in fourth place having climbed from seventh on Friday but only three penalties dropped on Sunday saw them take the lead, as Eamonn was fastest on all the driving tests and they made only one mistake on the regularities. Woodside and Francis collected 48 penalties on the first regularity of the day to drop back to second overall, just ahead of Scott and Busby.

David and Gary Moore entertain the windswept spectators at Newcastle.

Eric Patterson and Derek Smyth also lost ground on Sunday as their Riley Elf failed driving test 10 in Dingle. A fine recovery by Lynch and Dooley saw them match the winners’ score of only three penalties on Sunday, leaving them thinking of what might have been if car problems had not intervened on Saturday.

Niall Creighton splashes his way up Ballaghbeama Gap in his Ford Anglia.


  1. Eamonn Byrne/Paul Phelan Mini Cooper S 35.9
  2. Robert Woodside/Colin Francis VW Beetle 75.4
  3. Hill Scott/Isaac Busby MG Midget 78.1
  4. Eric Patterson/Derek Smyth Riley Elf 82.7
  5. Noel Cochrane/Michael Magee MG Midget 85.4
  6. Douglas Richardson/Sam Meyer MG Midget 94.5
  7. Peter Lynch/Rory Dooley Ford Cortina GT Mk1 119.0
  8. Robert Holmes/Malcolm Thompson Austin 1300 GT 164.0
  9. Mike Wylie/Michael Beattie Austin Speedwell GT2 170.8
  10. Conor Falvey/Vincent Fagan Ford Escort 177.0